Sydney family camping getaway – Wombeyan Caves

We‘ve just found the most amazing family weekend getaway only a few hours from Sydney – it’s cheap, full of wildlife and has great caves and bushwalks to explore. If you love camping and adventure on a family-friendly scale, you’re going to love Wombeyan Caves!

We've just found the most amazing weekend getaway only a few hours drive from Sydney or Canberra - set in a stunning secret valley, it's family-budget-friendly and packed with enough fun and adventure ... We’ve just spent a wonderful few days at Wombeyan Caves, located in NSW. Run by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, this gorgeous little valley is truly a secret treasure for Sydney, Canberra and surrounds families to discover – it’s the perfect place to go play with the family exploring caves, bushwalking and swimming, or just kick-back and relax surrounded by beauty!

Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve

Gorgeous Autumn displays at the Wombeyan Karst Reserve

Gorgeous Autumn displays at the Wombeyan Karst Reserve

As we drove down the windy little road into the valley that is the Wombeyan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve, we were struck by its astounding beauty. Tall poplars (amazing right now, as they turn golden in autumn) and old gum trees combine with rolling green plains for a stunning effect.

Among the trees, cosy campsites are scattered about. Not only does Wombeyan feature caves and bushwalks, it also has beautiful campgrounds for tents and caravans, plus on-site cabins to stay in. All of this makes for the perfect weekend getaway from Sydney or Canberra.

The Wombeyan Caves camping areas are beautiful

The Wombeyan Caves camping areas are beautiful

Kids play, ride bikes and wander about unhindered. This is family holidaying at its best – far away from civilisation, and in its own little world of nature – plus caving and bushwalking adventures to be had!

One of the best places to see wild Kangaroos in Australia

Kangaroos are everywhere at Wombeyan Caves - and you can get up-close to them too!

Kangaroos are everywhere at Wombeyan Caves – and you can get up-close to them too!

If you’ve always wanted to see, or show your children kangaroos in the wild, this has to be one of the best locations in Australia to see them. Quiet, almost tame family mobs of kangaroos, and even wallabies, graze around the edges of the idyllic camping area. You can literally stroll right up to them and watch them at close-quarters. They are always there, rain or shine, grazing, sleeping and…well, hopping about! It’s a real treat to have these furry neighbours living right alongside of the campers!

Kangaroos are everywhere - here are some on the path up to the caves!

Kangaroos are everywhere – here are some on the path up to the caves!

The Wombeyan Caves

Victoria Arch, Wombeyan CavesWithout a doubt, the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve is most famous for its incredible caves. The limestone and marble Wombeyan Caves system is a natural marvel, and you can walk and climb right through the three caves which are open to the public for admission price.

An important point to mention here, is that entry to any wild (unlit) caves at Wombeyan is illegal and highly dangerous without an experienced guide  – both to the trespassers and also the caves. So make sure that you buy an admission ticket, and only stick to the official caves!

It’s historically known that the outer areas of the caves (at least) were frequented by local Aborigines for thousands of years, and the caves were first European-discovered by John Oxley in 1828. In the early days, cave tours were done by candle-light!

To access any of the Wombeyan Caves, it’s a ten minute walk from the Visitor Information Centre to the top of the hill where the guided tours meet, or in the case of the Fig Tree Cave, another five minute stroll over the hill and down to the cave entrance. As you walk up, you may be lucky enough to hear the bellbirds like we did – here is a short video so that you can have a listen…

The path up the hill features spectacular views back over the valley. As with any of the high paths, it’s a good idea to closely supervision younger children as you walk up, due to the steep sides.

There are beautiful views of the Wombeyan Caves valley as you climb the caves path

There are beautiful views of the Wombeyan Caves valley as you climb the caves path

Native wildlife is everywhere at Wombeyan, and the path up to the top of the hill is no exception. Bell Birds call to each other in the trees. Kangaroos pop up everywhere. Lyrebirds rustle through the undergrowth. We even came across a pair of Red Necked Wallabies right next to the path. The best of it is that the wildlife is all so quiet and accepting of people – you can get quite close before they even think about moving away.

At the top of the hill is the meeting spot for the two-guided tour caves.

A pair of Red Necked Wallabies

A pair of Red Necked Wallabies were right next to the path

Three caves are currently open to the general public to view and explore, and we test-ran all three of them for you so that you can choose which cave best-suits your family.

Cave no. 1 – The Fig Tree Cave – allow about one hour – self-guided

Difficulty: Easy
Cave
Ladders: 0

Especially suits: families with very young children or visitors with limited time at Wombeyan

The Fig Tree Cave is the only Wombeyan Cave which visitors explore via a self-guided tour. This means you pay admission at the Wombeyan Caves Visitors Centre first ($20 adult/$13 concession-child) and are given an access token. You then walk up and over the hill to the cave entrance, located approximately 15 minutes walk away, where you can access and explore the cave unaccompanied by a guide.

The cave entrance is an iron door with a token slot – insert your token, and pull open the door, and you’re presented with a narrow, rocky set of stairs descending into the cave!

The Fig Tree Cave entrance - insert your token and in you go!

The Fig Tree Cave entrance – insert your token and in you go!

The children were just astounded with this disappearing-into-the-side-of-a-hill act. They couldn’t believe they were actually going to walk inside a hill – just like an adventure story! It was wonderful fun to watch their reactions and excitement.

Inside this beautiful cave are several chambers containing well-lit spectacles of limestone splendour. Enormous stalactites, stalagmites and columns are all the way along.

Wombeyan Caves

Being a self-guided tour, there are points to stop and listen to an audio commentary. This coordinates with a clever lighting system which highlights special features – and reveals amazing spaces, such as the “Opera House Cavern”. In the Fig Tree Cave you’ll also find amazing stone formations such as the Colonnades, the Galleries and the Marble Way.

The trick of the whole adventure is getting the kids to slow-down and actually listen to the fascinating audio – we probably achieved this…well, maybe half the time!The Wombeyan Caves paths are safe

The cave is brilliant for families with young children because it is so easy to navigate, and feels very safe. Walkways are well-lit, smooth and even, and are lined with continuous chrome-metal handrails.

The handrails also help with negotiating several short flights of rock/cement stairs, and narrow – sometimes low-hanging – rock passages. The constantly winding, climbing and descending passageway is actually a lot of fun!DSC_0203Eventually – perhaps 45 minutes after entering the cave – we reached the bottom to emerge inside of the magnificent Victoria Arch – a natural rock arch of astounding size and beauty. We were initially all struck speechless at its wonder!

Victoria Arch, Wombeyan Caves

Victoria Arch, Wombeyan Caves

From Victoria Arch and the cave exit, it is a mere two-minute, level walk back to the car park. The funny thing is, once you emerge from the Figtree Cave, you feel like turning around and going back in – it’s that fascinating!

Cave no. 2: The Wollondilly Cave – 1½ hour guided tour

Especially suits: families with school-aged children, up
Difficulty: Moderate
Cave Ladders: 5

The spectacular Cockatoo and Lot's Wife in the Wollondilly Cave

The spectacular Cockatoo and Lot’s Wife in the Wollondilly Cave

Our next cave tour at Wombeyan Caves was a guided tour through the Wollondilly Cave, led by the very experienced tour guide Lawrie. Here’s a little taste of what it’s like going through the caves – play this short video…

The Wollondilly Cave entrance is a stones-throw from the hill-top meeting spot. The entrance to Fig Tree Cave had been a flight of stairs, but there were oohs-and-aahs from everyone when we saw that the Wollondilly Cave entrance was a ladder! This was to be the first ladder of several, and by the time we had surfaced from the Wollondilly Cave we had become ladder-climbing experts!

 

A little about cave ladders and kidsDSC_0053

Cave ladders may look a little intimidating at first, but they’re really not. Made out of metal and sturdily constructed, cave ladders are sloped and have double-hand rails running down each side. This means that small children (such as the pre-schoolers on our tour) can easily climb down, safely encircled by mum or dad’s arms.

 

Eleven year old Brooke was very excited as soon as she saw the first ladder. Samantha, at nine years of age, was a little more hesitant. Once she saw her big sister go down, however, she was game. With a little guidance from mum on how to go down backwards, off she went. After that, there was no stopping them – both children would yell “Ladder!” excitedly every time we came across one. They absolutely loved the fun and adventure of the ups and downs leading to new cave levels.
Climbing the cave ladders and stairs are so much fun!

Climbing the cave ladders and stairs are so much fun!

The Wollondilly Cave is home to some really spectacular cave features – the most famous of which are the “Cockatoo” and “Lot’s Wife” stone formations, with the Organ Pipes located behind. Another remarkable feature is a very unusual rock shelf area, “the fortifications”, with a channel pathway cut right through it to allow viewing of the intricate “Pine Forest” formation.
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Every now-and-then, Lawrie our guide would stop and share his in-depth knowledge of how and why each rock feature was there, and special lighting would reveal each beautiful rock-sculpture.
Photos can’t really show you the breath-taking wonders of Wollondilly Cave – you need to experience them in person. If you only have enough time to see one cave on your trip to Wombeyan Caves, and you have children who are old enough to climb ladders, I’d recommend that you choose to do the Wollondilly Cave. It is astoundingly beautiful and the kids will absolutely love it.

Cave no. 3: The Junction Cave – 1½ hour guided tour

Difficulty: Moderate
Cave Ladders: 4

Especially suits: families with school aged children, up – visitors with more time (due to cave’s slightly farther-away location)

The Junction Cave is amazingly beautiful

The Junction Cave is amazingly beautiful

As soon as we emerged from the Wollondilly Cave tour at the top of the hill, Lawrie our guide invited us to join him for his next guided tour – the Junction Cave. As we had so thoroughly enjoyed the first guided tour, we leapt at the chance to see another!
The Junction Cave  is located farther down the track from the other two Wombeyan Cave entrances. Continuing along the hillside path, after around ten minutes walk through stunning bushland we came upon the Junction Cave entrance. In total, it was about 15-20 minutes walk from the Wombeyan Visitor’s Information Centre.
Down we go into the Junction Cave

Down we go into the Junction Cave

Down another backwards-descending ladder we went, but this time without a second thought – the girls now knew that cave ladders were fun, and led to adventure!
The Junction Cave doesn’t go quite as far down underground as the Wollondilly Cave does, so the temperature inside is actually quite warm and humid.
Lawrie our guide was very knowledgeable

Lawrie our guide was very knowledgeable

 This cave has its own collection of fabulous geological features, including the Chalker’s Blanket, the Grand Column, “The Rapids” flow stone of amazing age and a simply enormous stalagmite. You see seemingly bottomless pits, and even an under-ground stream. In some spots, huge boulders lay one on top of the other as though a giant had stacked them there. Mind-bogglingly beautiful features are simply everywhere.
Chalker's Blanket is a stunning cave feature

Chalker’s Blanket is a stunning cave feature

 Scooting along the rock tunnels was such fun for everyone – we all agreed, we couldn’t get enough of exploring these caves – and at this point, the girls and I had been caving for three hours!
A geological marvel, the unique splendour of the Junction Cave is really something to experience – don’t miss it!

Bushwalking trails

One of the best - Mares Forest Creek Bushwalk

One of the best – Mares Forest Creek Bushwalk

The caves aren’t the only fun family activity to do together at Wombeyan – there are also several bushwalks! There are three marked walking trails radiating out from the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve – the Waterfall Walk (4kms, 2 hours), Mares Forest Creek Walk (3.2km, 1.5 hours – includes a crystal-clear river swimming area, which is great for the summer months) and the Karst Walk (a shorter loop near the valley).

To learn more about bushwalking safely with children, see our 5 essentials for a fun family bushwalk in Australia article here

The amazing Limestone Gorge

The amazing Limestone Gorge

We decided on bushwalking the Mares Forest Creek Walk – and it would have to be one of the best family bushwalks in NSW, if not Australia. This picturesque bush walk took us through beautiful bushland along well-formed trails with stunning views, all the way to the fascinating Tinted Cave and the Limestone Gorge (otherwise known as the Marble Canyon). The river running through the Canyon makes an amazing natural Summer swimming spot. (You can read all about our Wombeyan Caves Mares Forest Bushwalk in our up-coming special feature).

Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve Accommodation

Wombeyan Caves Reserve is a simply beautiful place to stay, and there are several accommodation options to choose from. The perfect weekend getaway from Sydney or Canberra, staying a night or two at Wombeyan Karst Reserve is the perfect way to see the caves and do one or two bushwalks as well. Plus you’ll have some time to take it easy and just enjoy being there. Huge trees, masses of native wildlife, including kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and lyrebirds to name just a few – this is a hidden paradise, unspoiled by modern times. As in all National Parks, no pets and no smoking are allowed.

The Wombeyan Caves Caravan and Cabin Park

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While at Wombeyan Caves, we stayed in an on-site cabin in the Wombeyan Caves Cabin Park, located at the eastern end of the Wombeyan Caves Reserve. The cabin and caravan park is a beautiful spot, bounded by a hill on one side, and Wombeyan (mostly dry) creek bed on the other.
The kids loved staying at Wombeyan, as it gave them time to play and explore. After we had settled in, they went off to play in the little cubby nearby. Then they headed off to climb the small hills next to our cabin – the cabin park and campgrounds are a true adventure playground!
The play cubby with a barbeque shelter behind

The play cubby with a barbeque shelter behind

At Wombeyan Caves, it would be unusual to walk outside and NOT come across a group of quiet kangaroos or wallabies grazing, or just sticky-beaking! Within five minutes of unpacking the car we had seen numerous kangaroos, plus two lyrebirds running across the grass in front of our cabin – what an amazing sight!

Our two-bedroom cabin

Our cabin was a the perfect accommodation option for our family. Watch our quick video to have a look through our wood cabin…

Cosy and spotlessly clean, the cabins have power supplied and are super-warm thanks to heating in both the bathroom and living area. They are fitted out with every mod-con necessary for a very comfortable stay. There is no stereo or TV in the cabin, for a true getaway!
Inside our cabin was a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a disabled access ramp along one side, and a veranda at the front to have that relaxing cuppa whilst gazing at the hills!
Early morning coffee - we all found our own ways to unwind at Wombeyan!

Early morning coffee – we all found our own ways to unwind at Wombeyan!

 The cabin’s main bedroom had a double bed with an electric blanket and bedside tables. There was a full-sized wardrobe containing a clock-radio and filled with spare blankets. The second bedroom had four solid custom-wood frame bunk beds (my girls loved these!).
The bathroom had a normal flush toilet, vanity and a great shower with lots of hot water. The bottom of the shower serves as a half-bath – perfect to bathe babies or toddlers in.
Click on the images below for a closer look at the Cabin…
If you choose to stay in a cabin, you’ll need to bring your own sheets, towels and food. Blankets and pillows are supplied. The kitchen has cutlery, crockery, cups, drinking glasses, pots and pans and utensils. There is a full-sized fridge, small grilling stove/oven with two hotplates, a microwave, hot water jug and toaster. Cleaning tools include a mop, bucket, long-handled brush and dustpan.
Within the caravan and cabin park there are numerous amenities, including a coin-operated laundry, coin-operated ($1) barbecue shed, and a flush toilets and hot showers amenities block. The nearby camp kitchen is also accessible to all.
If you want to stay at Wombeyan and don’t want to pitch a tent or bring a caravan, the Wombeyan Cave cabins are the perfect solution. They are a great place to stay for a weekend getaway, or longer holiday for a large or small family, couple or solo traveller.

Wombeyan Caves budget accommodation – the campground camping area

Camping at Wombeyan Caves

The Wombeyan Caves camping area is just a little farther down the road from the caravan park. Tent and caravan campsites are located next to a large clearing where families of kangaroos and wallabies graze day and night.
There are limited powered sites at the campground which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Whilst you don’t need to book for unpowered tent sites, you do need to book if you are bringing a caravan or camper trailer – particularly in the school holidays (see the telephone number in info at the end of this article for bookings).
The Wombeyan Caves campground comes complete with resident kangaroos!

The Wombeyan Caves campground comes complete with resident kangaroos!

There are formed campfire sites to sit around and toast your marshmallows over too, but you do need to bring your own firewood in with you.
Amenities blocks with hot showers and flush toilets, drinking water and coin-operated ($1) electric barbeques are all available at the camp grounds, and the Camp Kitchen is located opposite. You can also access the laundry room, located in the caravan park area.

The Camp Kitchen

The camp kitchen and dining roomWombeyan Caves Campground is very well serviced. There is an attractive stone camp kitchen and dining room building available to all. The communal kitchen contains large ovens, cook-top stoves, kitchen sinks, a hot water urn, jug and a fridge. The large dining room next door features a large wood-fire, and provides a place to eat and relax out of the weather.
Click on the images below for a closer look inside the Camp Kitchen…

The Wombeyan Caves KioskSo yummy - the Wombeyan Caves kiosk food menu

The Wombeyan Caves Kiosk is open every day until 4pm (excepting Christmas Day), and is a minutes walk from the campgrounds at Visitor Information.
Here you can purchase your cave tickets, pay your camping fees and even grab some lunch – yummy hot pies, chips and other assorted snacks are available. They also sell cold drinks and ice creams. Here you can also get your Wombeyan Cave souvenirs, plus some basic grocery and camping items.

No, or limited mobile phone service – welcome to a genuine holiday getaway!

Most, if not all, mobile phone carriers do not have reception at Wombeyan Caves. There are definitely advantages to no phone service. All of a sudden, everyone is no longer checking their phone – this is especially valuable if you are holidaying with teenagers! You also get to actually escape from work emails too. No TV reception, means no national news either – welcome to true, switch-off relaxation!
If you do need to keep a lifeline to home or work open, there is a Telstra pay phone available 24 hours They do still exist! Just remember to bring along some silver coins (50c per call, 20c per sms) or a telephone card.
The kids love exploring the natural playgrounds around Wombeyan campground

The kids love exploring the natural playgrounds around Wombeyan campground

After a lovely few days at Wombeyan Caves, it was finally time to go home.

As we drove up, out of the valley, campfires were springing to life as the evening closed in, their hazy smoke snaking up into the valley sky. Kangaroos peacefully grazed in the twilight. It was a surreal scene of family camping bliss which we were very sorry to be leaving. We certainly look forward to our next visit to Wombeyan Caves.

Wombeyan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve useful info

wombeyan-caves (10)Wombeyan Caves is an excellent New South Wales destination for a day-trip, weekend getaway or  relaxing holiday where you can escape the rat-race and get back to nature – with some fun adventurous exploring on the side. The Caves, wildlife and bushwalks will keep you and the family as busy as you want to be – or just take it easy and soak up the peacefulness and beauty of this magical location. You can choose your own family adventure!

Run by NSW National Parks, Wombeyan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve is open year-round, weather permitting (with the exception of Christmas Day for the Visitors Centre).

Accommodation booking and price information

You can camp with the native wildlife at Wombeyan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve

Camping fees information
Unpowered camp sites for tents and caravans (no prior booking necessary) are from *$15 per adult or *$39 per family per night.

Cabins pricing information
Standard cabin 2-night school holidays or weekend stay: *$272 for 2 adults, *$289 per family (2 adults, children up to age 16). *$103 per extra night. Cheaper off-peak.

Caves information

There are three Wombeyan Caves currently open to the publicFig Tree Cave self-guided tour prices
$50 per family
or
$20 per adult
$13 per child/concession
$17 seniors

Junction Cave and Wollondilly Cave guided tours prices
$60 per family
or
$24 per adult
$19 per child/concession
$22 seniors

Wombeyan Passes for discounted multiple entries are also available.

*All prices are correct as at May 2017

For information and bookings
Wombeyan Caves Visitors Centre
Tel: +61 (02) 48 43 5976
Email: wombeyan.caves@environment.nsw.gov.au
You’ll find more information at the official NSW National Parks website here

How to get to Wombeyan Caves

Wombeyan Caves Karst Reserve kangaroos

Wombeyan Caves Reserve is located inland, in-between Sydney and Goulburn.

We approached Wombeyan Caves from the direction of Goulburn, NSW, taking a sealed bitumen road to just past Taralga, then turning right onto Wombeyan Caves Road. Only the last 15kms or so of the trip being dirt/gravel unsealed road. The last couple of kilometres do return to bitumen for a steep-ish, narrow descent into the valley where the caves are located. Normal 2 wheel drive cars can easily access Wombeyan Caves.

Access from Sydney also includes unsealed road, and takes around 3 and a half hours from the Sydney CBD, via the Hume Highway to Mittagong, then turning right onto the Old Hume Highway which becomes the Wombeyan Caves Road. Progress along the Wombeyan Caves Road (from the Mittagong end) is winding and slow, and at one point passes through a historic sandstone tunnel.

The Let’s Go Mum family were invited guests at Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve. As always, all opinions are our own.

Do you like to go camping with your family? Tell us in the comments below…

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2 Responses so far.

  1. What a detailed guide! And it seems like the place is not massified by tourists which is a place I would love to visit if I’m in Australia. Thanks for sharing!


About LetsGoMum

Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at barbara@letsgomum.com.au!
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